Education of Muslims in Muzaffarpur
In the 1570s, a general of the Mughal Emperor, Akbar, named, Muzaffar Khan Turbati had stationed his army at a place in Tirhut (Bihar) to chase the Afghan rebels who had taken shelter in the foothills (Tarai) of Nepal. This gave rise to a market. In the 18th century, Syed Raza Khan Muzaffar Jung, developed it into a town, naming it after himself, called it Muzaffarpur. In 1782, it was made the headquarters of the district of Tirhut, which included Darbhanga also. In 1875, Darbhanga became a separate district, and the district of Tirhut was re-named as the district of Muzaffarpur. In 1907, Muzaffarpur became the headquarters of the Commissioner’s Division of Tirhut, besides remaining the headquarters of the district of Muzaffarpur.
The region/District, which has a proud past of having run so many educational institutions and cultural organizations, now appears to have emasculated its all ability to maintain the quality of educational institutions. [Syed Imdad Ali (d. August 1886), the then Sub-Judge (Sadr Amin of Muzaffarpur and a close friend of the Aligarh’s Sir Syed Ahmad), along with Nawab Syed Md Taqi, had established the Bihar Scientific Society, Muzaffarpur, in 1868. It established a chain of English cum vernacular schools across the district, and it also harboured the ambition of growing into an Urdu University].
A large number of Muslim cultural organizations came up in Muzaffarpur including the “Muslim Club”, established in 1912, by Khan Bahadur Syed Ahmad Husain, advocate. Besides this, many other literary and cultural institutions (with some Urdu magazines also) were established in Muzaffarpur. The earthquake of 15 January 1934 ravaged the city in a terrible way. Still, in 1936-7 the Muslims had started, ‘Abeda High School’.
Bibi Abeda Khatun was the wife of an advovate, Abdul Hafeez, of the village Mandai Khurd in the Shakra P.S. She was the daughter of Md. Taslimuddin, a zamindar of the village Birdipur, P.S. Simri, Darbhanga. Khan Md. Yaqub, the then Vice Chairman of the Muzaffarpur Municipality and the resident of the village Benibad, was one of the most important persons who helped a lot in establishing this school. Khan Md. Yaqub was one of the greatest donors to this school.
Presently, the oldest surviving Muslim managed High school, Abeda High School, is reported to be afflicted with many serious problems. Its Secretary (an associate of the Tablighi Jamaat and also running a madrasa near the Shri Krishna Medical College, Muzaffarpur) was alleged to have indulged in a large-scale corruption, which went up to almost Rs. 1 crore, i.e. 10 million [Qaumi Tanzeem (Urdu daily), Patna, 18, 30 January 2001]. The news reporters engaged in exposing the corruption received threats of life from the notorious criminals of the city. This made it self-evident that certain bigwigs of school management did have links with the criminal gangs. Meaning thereby, like the political systems, the management of the educational institutions are also criminalized. Not only this, the school is barely a source of quality education. It is not a matter of pride for the parents to educate their children in this school. Compare it with the ‘Prabhat Tara School’ managed by the Roman Catholic Missionary which is supposed to be the best school of Muzaffarpur despite the fact that its teachers get much less salary than those of the Abeda School (The teachers, of this minority managed school, are paid by the government of Bihar). Only re-deeming aspect of it is that the institution has added another feather in its cap by running the Yaseen Memorial Technical Institute.
‘It is very sad that far from establishing few more educational institutions, the Muslims are unable to run their already existing educational institutions in a proper manner’, was the common refrain of the most of the city’s Muslim respondents. Their central concern is that the colleges of professional courses of southern India charge not only exorbitant fee, even cost of living for the students in those cities are too high. Another reservation is about sending their girls to those far away places. Given such constraints, they feel greater necessity of such institutions in their home province.
At least, till 1980s the government schools, more particularly the Zila School (founded in 1845, and co-funded by Nawab Taqi from 1852) did continue as a remarkably good residential school. But even in those days, the Abeda School was not supposed to be imparting a quality education.
In the 1970s, a Girls’ High School was also established [by the descendents of Syed Hafiz Ahqar (d. 1927), the founder of the Madrasa Jamia-ul-Uloom, Muzaffarpur. Ahqar had also founded the Urdu-Hindi Sahityik Sabha in 1914, for friendship between Urdu and Hindi. It survived till 1940. Ahqar’s son, Nematullah Razi (d. 1944) had participated in the Civil Disobedience Movement to oust the British rule]. This Muslim minority school, fully aided by the Bihar government, in terms of imparting quality education, continues as just another school.
In late 1980s, some resourceful individuals of a village, Chainpur Bangra (near Maniyari, Muzaffarpur) took an (over)ambitious step of establishing a medical college for the Muslim minorities. Few people appreciated and encouraged this step. Whereas many of them were of the opinion that rather than taking such an expensive and huge tasks, better proposition would be to employ these resources into establishing a high quality residential Senior Secondary School with remarkable infrastructure, affiliated to the CBSE. They wanted to make this school a source of quality education
which could enable its students to qualify the entrance tests of the professional courses (like medical, engineering, law, journalism, management etc.) at national level. For all round personality development of the students they wanted to have well organized extra curricular activities like organizing debate, quiz, essay writing competitions, drama, sports etc. They were particularly concerned about the way the ‘ Insaan School ’ of Kishanganj, eastern Bihar , could not succeed. But the key persons, who had material resources refused to be convinced with this pragmatic and more fruitful approach. They remained insistent on the ‘megalomaniac’ grand project of a medical college. Small wonder then, that at the end of the day, the project proved a non- starter. However a high school has been started there, which is just another school and therefore hardly of any significance.
Sorry State of the WAQF Estates
Similarly, the management of the charity institutions like the Waqf estates is also reported to be suffering from corrupt management. This is evident by the fact that in 1948 the Tasawwur Ali Waqf Estate of Muzaffarpur had as much as 40 acres of land, but by 1990, it shrank to mere 24 acres. ‘Loss of lands due to fake sales is common in (such) institutions. Most of them (the managers of the waqf properties, the mutawallis) are misusing the properties’. The Waqf institutions are in ‘awfully bad shape’. There is ‘not a single institution in the rural areas which is performing its basic functions. The property attached to such institutions is largely used for serving the personal interests of the managers…they have miserably failed in fulfilling their objectives’, says a study of 1993.
Similar observation has been made by a journalist, who says, “In practice, mutawallis have tended to virtually act as owners of the properties and used them in a large number of cases for private gain or social and political dominance, without much thought to the charirable purpose for which the original request was made”. [Anand K. Sahay, “Sea Change with Wakf Pool?” Tehelka, June, 1-7, 2008, p. 42. He, however, reports that in Jammu & Kashmir the Srinagar’s most famous hospital, the sprawling Saura Institute and the Islamic University of Science and Technology at Awantipura are best creations of Waqf].
Consequently, internal resource generation/ mobilization, to uplift the community, are not only missing but also being misused by the influential individuals/ groups of the community.
Politicians’ Investments in Education
Maghfur Aijazi (d. 1967), a noted freedom fighter from Muzaffarpur had organized and led working class movements in Muzaffarpur. He had also led the movements for better municipal facilities. His contribution in extending educational facilities to the weaker sections of the society is unforgettable. His movements succeeded precisely because he organized these democratic movements with effective and organic linkage with the masses. Due to his efforts, a large number of Urdu schools were opened by the government. It was his agitation, which resulted in bringing the headquarters of the Bihar University in Muzaffarpur in 1952. He impressed upon the government to start Honours and Post graduate courses in Urdu in the premier colleges of Muzaffarpur like the Langat Singh (L.S.) College, Ramdayalu Singh (R.D.S.) College and Mahanth Darshan Das Mahila (M.D.D.M.) College. He started an organization, “Bihar Muslim Educational, Economic and Social Organization”. This organization collected a village-wise data of the Urdu speaking population in the district. Linking Urdu with government employment was a kind of his passion. As many as 20 thousand people had gathered for the cause of Urdu in Muzaffarpur on 3-4 December 1960.
In 1941, a mass rally was convened in Patna to re-assert the “Rajendra-Haq Pact”, which was followed by a massively attended ‘Tirhut Urdu Conference’ of Muzaffarpur on 7-8 July 1945, organized mainly by Betaab Siddiqui. Encouraged with such a massive response, Abdul Haq, even went on demanding a Urdu University in 1946. It should be recalled that the urge to have an Urdu university in Bihar , was expressed in 19th century also, when the Bihar Scientific Society, Muzaffarpur, planned to advance its cause of modern education towards establishing an Urdu university.
Such formidable mass movements and hugely attended rallies/ conferences that he organized, resulted into opening up of the Government Urdu schools in a large number of the villages of the district, e.g. Jamalpur, Raheempur Jeewan, Raksha, Shakra, Rajasan, Semra, Jamalabad, Mah Begpur Narkatiya, Narsinghpur, Kumhra, Chapaith, Maanikpur (Baruraj) etc.
But unlike the Bhumihar and Rajput leaders like Shri Krishna Sinha (1887-1961) and Anugraha Narayan Sinha (1887-1957), who extended patronage and favours to their respective caste fellows in different district towns, not only in license, permit and contracts but also in education and public employment, the more resourceful Muslim political leaders like Naseeruddin Hyder Khan (the Parsauni Raj) with big landholding in and around Muzaffarpur, did not establish educational institutions in the early decades of Independence. Even in Muzaffarpur, many Bhumihar and Rajput landlords cum political leaders opened many schools and colleges in the early decades of Independence and employed their respective caste-fellows in these educational institutions. These very employees acted as the political resource persons and “booth managers” of the leaders in the elections. In fact almost all the high schools and colleges in Muzaffarpur (as in the rest of Bihar) have been opened by such district level political leaders who could well be called the ‘clients’ or ‘sub-contractors’, of the leaders like Shri Krishna Sinha (the Chief Minister) and Anugraha Narayan (the Education Minister).
No such practice of linear networking of political patronage could be emulated by the Muslim landlord politicians like Naseeruddin Hyder, despite the fact that the Article 30 of the Indian Constitution does provide for the minorities to open their own educational institutions. A question may be raised that if Anugraha Narayan Sinha and his son Satyendra Narayan Singh could operate their politics from Patna by patronizing their caste fellow (Rajput) ‘cli
ents’ like Rameshwar Singh and Nitishwar Singh in Muzaffarpur and similarly, if Shri Krishna Sinha could do the same through the Bhumihars of Muzaffarpur like Ramdayalu Singh, Nawal Kishore Sinha, Mahesh Prasad Sinha etc, then Syed Mahmud (1889-1971) could also have created his own clientele/ political clout/ faction with the district level Muslim politicians/ MLAs like Naseeruddin Hyder, who could have opened their own schools and colleges not only for educational uplift of the people but also to offer employment opportunities to their supporters in these institutions.
But the history of the Muslims of this region does not give evidence of the emergence/ creation of such political networking.
Besides Urdu offering some public employment to cross sections of Muslims, another factor which is contributing considerably in swelling of middle classes among the Muslims of Muzaffarpur (as elsewhere in Bihar and beyond) is the remittance (‘money-order’) economy from the West Asian Gulf countries. An impression gathered after visiting a good number of villages of the district by the author, also testify it. Among many others, the villages like Khanpur Berai of Katra Block, Tehai Madaripur of Minapur Block, Manohar Chapra of Motipur Block have sent a large number of skilled and unskilled workers to the Gulf countries. Their small agrarian income being supplemented with the remittances from the Gulf countries have been wisely invested in the modern education.
They sent their children to Bangalore and elsewhere for technical-professional employable education. These technically equipped/ educated people found employment in the Gulf countries on even better salaries. This growing prosperity is evident by the urban expansion of the city of Muzaffarpur. The prices of the land in the ‘Muslim’ localities of the city are far higher than that of those residential parts of the city which have Hindu population. The middle class colonies of Muslim population like the Sir Syed Colony, Faiz Colony of Chandwara; Zakaria Colony, Bankers’ Colony, New Colony, Amir Khusrau Nagar etc in the vicinity of Syedpura and Mithanpura; as also in Maripur and Brahmapura parts of the city, are increasingly getting crowded, admittedly for better education to their children. This testifies their urge as well as affordability for quality modern education.
Is there any hope that educational entrepreneurs will emerge in this part of the world to address the educational aspirations of the people?
Note : the author is an Asstt. Professor at the Centre of Advanced Study in History, Aligarh Muslim University